A Simple, Confessional Argument against Classical Theism


A post originally published on SEPTEMBER 5, 2020
🔗 A Simple, Confessional Argument against Classical Theism by Joe Schmid

I am starting to appreciate the confessional nature of arguments. Arguments are avenues for thinkers simply to confess to their dialectical partners what strikes them as convincing, true, or clear. They are not attacks, weapons, or anything of that sort. They are simply confessions―revelations of personal sight. “I simply confess to you that these premises seem true to me” is a motto I (and, I think, others) should get accustomed to using.

With that said, here is my confession for today: I simply confess that the following argument strikes me as deeply plausible. More than that, actually―it strikes me as clearly sound. But do not let my sight be a bludgeon. Do not let my sight shackle you into chains with which you cannot disagree or escape. I simply invite you to consider the argument by your own light of reason.

Here is the simple argument―one that I have discussed before on my blog, but one that I need to put forward in standalone, clear form.

  1. If classical theism is true, then for any x, if x is not God, x is created by God.
  2. If classical theism is true, then God is free to create or not create.
  3. If (i) God is free to create or not create, and (ii) for any x, if x is not God, x is created by God, then for any x, if x is not God, x is contingent (i.e. can be absent from reality).
  4. So, if classical theism is true, then for any x, if x is not God, x is contingent. [1-3]
  5. There is some x such that x is not God and x is not contingent.
  6. So, classical theism is false. [4, 5]

Premises (1) and (2) are core commitments of classical theism (Grant 2019, ch. 1). To deny them is to deny classical theism. Premise (3) is clearly true. If there being something apart from God presupposes that God creates it, and God is free to create anything or not create anything, then anything apart from God is possibly non-existent (i.e. contingent). The only premise left is premise (5). Why believe (5)?

All we need for the truth of (5) is (i) realism about things like numbers, mathematical objects, propositions, relations, universals, etc., and (ii) the claim that if numbers, mathematical objects, propositions, etc. exist, then they necessarily exist.

Denying realism is costly. I will simply assume realism. There are propositions. The number 2 exists. Universals exist.

And claim (ii) is eminently plausible as well. The number 2, if it exists, would not simply exist on Mondays (say) but not on Tuesdays; it would not just happen to exist. It would necessarily exist. Same with propositions. Consider the proposition that one and one make two. [Insert your favorite necessary truth here, e.g. ‘God exists’, ‘God does not exist’, ‘modus ponens is valid’, ‘LNC is true’, ‘if there are philosophers, then there are philosophers’, etc.] This proposition is necessarily true. But something cannot be necessarily true unless it necessarily exists. For suppose it could fail to exist. Then, since non-existent things cannot be anything, it follows that it could fail to be true. But it is necessarily true; it could not fail to be true. Hence, it necessarily exists.

So, claim (ii) is on good footing.

All that is left to show is that these things (universals, propositions, mathematical objects, etc.) are not God. This is clearly true. God cannot be identical to the number 2 and the number 7, since the number 2 is even while the number 7 is not even. God cannot be both even and not even. The exact same reasoning applies to the other kinds of entities we have been considering. For instance, God is clearly not identical to the proposition that ‘one and one make two’ and identical to the proposition that ‘the interior angles of a Euclidean triangle sum to two right angles’. For the latter is about the angles of a triangle, while the former is not. God cannot be both about angles and not about angles.

So, by my lights at least, premise (5) is clearly true. And from this, classical theism is clearly false. By my lights, at least―’tis the nature of confessions.

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